Explaining Party Change in Turkey: The Case of AKP
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Despite the arguments on their declining strength and prominence, political parties continue to remain as the key organizations in contemporary representative democracies. Political parties are also depicted as key organizations that are in a constant need for adaptation and change against changing domestic and international context that they are embedded in. Nevertheless political parties are also organizations that need to attain a certain level of stasis. This constant tension between change and stasis initiated a vibrant literature on party change. Proposed explanatory factors of party change such as leadership change, factional rivalry/change, and environmental shock have explanatory value regarding cases that involve pungent changes. Nevertheless, these factors that stimulate party change fails to explain incremental changes that political parties experience. The Justice and Development Party stands out as an interesting case for studying party change in democracies that are in consolidation process. Although the change that the party experienced is extensively documented, the explanatory factors proposed by the theoretically informed studies of party change are not applicable to the case of AKP. This thesis aims to analyze this theoretical puzzle by focusing on the domain of ideological change and argue that the change that party experienced throughout its three terms in government is an adaptive response to changing levels of party institutionalization. In this way, the thesis also aims to scrutinize the negative relationship between party institutionalization and party change and posit that the initial party formation process and the domestic and international political context that the party formation process is embedded in significantly affects the goal prioritization and ideological construction process of political parties. Secondly, this thesis will analyze the behavioral response of political parties and EU-led party change and argue that parties level of institutionalization, goal prioritization and effectiveness of EU conditionality determines the prospects of EU-led party change in accession countries.